Follow these golden rules on Shrove Tuesday and you’ll be rewarded with perfect crepes for breakfast, lunch or dinner
If you thought there was nothing new to learn about pancakes, then think again. From flipped up flavour combinations and ways to take your batter to the next level, here are 16 top tips from Ireland’s best-known foodies guaranteed to elevate your pancakes this Shrove Tuesday.
Remember batter basics
Make your batter the best it can be by sticking to these simple rules, says Paul Kelly, executive pastry chef at the five-star Merrion Hotel. “Sieve all your dry ingredients to avoid lumps and heat your pan well before adding the pancake mix — an even heat across the pan is the secret — and it’s important to wipe your pan clean between each batch.” He adds: “Oh, and don’t worry — the first pancake always turns out rubbish.”
Swap pasta for pancakes? Yes you Can(elloni)!
“Try converting your pancakes into cannelloni,” suggests Catherine Fulvio, author, chef and owner of Ballyknocken House and Cookery School. “Spread tomato sauce, spinach leaves and roasted butternut squash on the pancakes and roll them up. Lay in a gratin dish, cover with a béchamel sauce, cheese and breadcrumbs and bake.”
But why stop the subbing fun at pasta — swap out tortillas for pancake huevos rancheros, and ditch the naan bread for crepes. “Vegetable korma filling is delicious tucked into folded pancakes and served with cucumber raita and coconut flakes,” says Catherine.
Know which batter is best for snack or supper
Pick a pancake batter best suited to when you’re dining, with American-style pancakes better for a more substantial feast. “The fluffy batter has more raising agent and is heavier,” explains chef Neven Maguire. “The crepe batter is lighter.”
Don’t go straight into the pan
“Let your batter rest to achieve the right consistency,” urges chef Kevin Dundon. “It should have close to a sponge texture before you use it.”
“Try stuffing your pancakes with different sweet and savoury fillings such as peanut butter, Nutella, goat’s cheese or jam,” suggests Dr Hazel Wallace, author and founder of The Food Medic. “Spread some pancake batter on the pan, add a spoon of your filling and then add some more batter on top to cover and seal the filling. Cook well on one side before flipping.”
Flip the script
Forget everything you ever knew about pancakes by trying something radically different. “For breakfast, lunch or dinner, I love a savoury chickpea pancake made with just chickpea flour and water, with kimchi and spring onions mixed in” says Indy Power of littlegreenspoon.ie. “It sounds weird but tastes amazing and is packed with probiotics, protein and fibre. Great with some sriracha or Tabasco too.”
Don’t flip too soon
“Once the pancake batter is poured in the pan, let it cook until you see bubbles on the top (similar to how a crumpet would look) then carefully flip them to finish,” says Kevin Dundon.
“My all-time favourite pancake topping is fried banana,” says Indy Power. “There is just nothing better than a sticky, caramelised banana melting on top of a stack of pancakes and they couldn’t be easier to make. Just slice your banana, either in discs or in half and half again lengthways, and fry them in some coconut oil for a few minutes until golden on each side. Thank me later!”
Boost your batter
Don’t wait until toppings to inject flavour. “For a savoury pancake, you could add a few teaspoons of fresh pesto to the batter,” says Neven Maguire. “Or for a sweet pancake, add some vanilla extract or lemon zest or a large pinch of cinnamon.” Catherine Fulvio also recommends mixing it up by adding a couple of tablespoons of nut butter to the batter before cooking.
Pick the right pan
“The French use a seven-inch pan for crepes,” says Darina Allen of Ballymaloe Cookery School. “Certainly no more than 10 inches.” And don’t over-fill. “They should cook in less than a minute in a good, hot pan.”
Up the fluffy factor
“To make super fluffy pancakes, separate and beat the egg whites separately,” reveals Dr Hazel Wallace. “Add the egg yolks to the rest of the ingredients and fold the egg whites in last, without over-mixing.”
Don’t underestimate the power of a pinch
It might be a sweet treat but a pinch of salt will elevate your batter. “A little pinch of salt just brings up the flavour,” explains Darina Allen. “Especially now that butter has less than 2pc salt, you need to add your own.”
Add a nutritious twist
Try buckwheat flour which has more protein, fibre and B vitamins. Or toppings like smashed avocado and poached egg, crammed with protein and healthy fats for a balanced meal. “Add some chopped up dried or fresh fruit to your pancake mix to jazz things up while also upping your intake of five a day,” suggests Dr Hazel Wallace.
Butter + batter = better
“If you melt a tablespoon of butter and add it into the batter then you don’t need to worry about putting paper between your pancakes when you pile them up cooked or need to grease your pan in between each pancake,” reveals Darina Allen.
Sneak in some spinach
“If you’re cooking for kids or just trying to up your own greens, try making your pancake batter in a blender and adding a handful of spinach before blending,” suggests Indy Power. “You won’t taste it and it’s nice to get a bit of colour on your plate.”
Take a tour around the world
There’s no reason why your pancakes have to stay in lockdown. If you fancy trying something completely different (and with a taste of the exotic), Darina Allen recommends taking a global approach to pancakes from Transylvanian crepes — served with ricotta and dill; Russian pancakes which are “more like a drop scone”; and even Japanese soufflé pancakes.
“Stop looking at pancakes just as something you have once a year with lemon and sugar and look at them as the great convertible they are!” urges Darina Allen.